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Home >> Digital Printing Comes of Age
When digital cameras first seeped into the consumer marketplace, they entered a landscape largely barren of convenient printing options. Consumers were adrift, unsure how, or even if, they were suppose to print their digital photos.
So they didn't.
The dearth of printing led to much chin pulling and “wither the photo print” eulogies from concerned industry observers, but according to recent interviews with analysts and vendors, the nightmare scenario of print-less digital photography is waning as more mainstream consumers purchase cameras, retail printing infrastructure catches up to camera owners, and as home printing options become cheaper and easier to use.
Kerry Flatley, consultant, InfoTrends, noted that both home and retail are flourishing. She said the two methods will coexist, at least for immediate future, as both serve distinct consumer needs.
“Digital camera owners who print at both home and retail say that they print at home when they need to print 10 or fewer photos or when they want to be creative with their photos,” Flatley said. “They print at retail when they want high-quality prints, prints of important shots and when they want to print 10 or more photos.”
The question now is: How often will consumers print? According to the Photo Marketing Association (PMA), the majority of digital images, 65 percent or 9 billion, currently lay dormant in hard drives and memory cards.
However, the sheer volume of images captured is expected to grow exponentially (see “Getting a Picture,” p. 96), so even if the percentage of images printed remains smaller than those that aren't, the absolute numbers of printed images would be enough to sustain a healthy industry, vendors say.
“When you look at the sheer number of images that will be captured in the upcoming years, it's astounding, and a lot of those are going to be printed either at home or at retail,” said Walter Haug, VP marketing, printing and Web services, Fujifilm.
Far more than mere technological advancements are driving consumer printing habits, said Rowan Larson, Kodak, home printing director, Kodak. “When someone is 15 years old, they're not going to make a lot of prints,” Lawson said. “But we find that as people hit certain key life experiences, marriage, the birth of a child, their habits change fundamentally and they start to print,” he added. “Prints provide the emotional experience of photography.”